The Best Closed Back Headphones for 2021 – Buyers Guide

We just recently finished our article on the 8 best open headphones on the market right now so we thought it would only be fair to give a little love to closed headphones as well.  

Closed-back headphones are likely the type of headphones that will best suit the majority of listeners due to their versatility.  They can work in a lot of situations where using an open back headphone is just not practical or may be disturbing to others.  

In fact, to find out more you can read our article on this topic about the advantages and disadvantages between these very different headphone styles.

In short, closed headphones are more suited for use in noisy environments due to their ability to block out external sound thus leaving you in isolated peace and quiet. They also stop you from sharing what you are listening to with others around.

Most people agree they are generally better suited as a set of travel headphones with most designers and brands who target traveling audiophiles opting to use a closed design.  As a result, you can get a lot of well-made, durable, and smaller designs that make them much easier to use on the go.

So what are our picks for the top 10 best-closed headphones right now?  In no particular order, we are going to cover the following headphones.

Our Recommendations:

Best Noise Canceling
Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Industry Leading Noise Canceling Overhead Headphones with Mic for Phone-Call and Alexa Voice Control, Black
Best Sounding
Dan Clark Audio Stealth Planar Closed-Back Headphones with 6 ft. Cable and 1/4-Inch Jack (Black)
Best Value
Meze 99 Classics Walnut Gold | Wired Over-Ear Headphones with Mic and Self Adjustable Headband | Classic Wooden Closed-Back Headset for Audiophiles
Model
Sony WH-1000XM4
Dan Clark Stealth
Meze Audio 99 Classics
Wireless
Driver Type
Dynamic Driver
Planar Magnetic
Dynamic Driver
Editors Comments
The best noise cancelling headphones on the planet. Great sound and lots of features.
Top of the line sound. A true audiophile experience and currently the best sounding closed back headphone on the market.
One of the best performing full size headphones for the money. Stunning design and engaging sound.
Best Noise Canceling
Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Industry Leading Noise Canceling Overhead Headphones with Mic for Phone-Call and Alexa Voice Control, Black
Model
Sony WH-1000XM4
Wireless
Driver Type
Dynamic Driver
Editors Comments
The best noise cancelling headphones on the planet. Great sound and lots of features.
Best Sounding
Dan Clark Audio Stealth Planar Closed-Back Headphones with 6 ft. Cable and 1/4-Inch Jack (Black)
Model
Dan Clark Stealth
Wireless
Driver Type
Planar Magnetic
Editors Comments
Top of the line sound. A true audiophile experience and currently the best sounding closed back headphone on the market.
Best Value
Meze 99 Classics Walnut Gold | Wired Over-Ear Headphones with Mic and Self Adjustable Headband | Classic Wooden Closed-Back Headset for Audiophiles
Model
Meze Audio 99 Classics
Wireless
Driver Type
Dynamic Driver
Editors Comments
One of the best performing full size headphones for the money. Stunning design and engaging sound.

Best Closed Back Headphone List 2021


Sony WH1000XM4

Sony WH1000 XM4 on head

One of the big benefits of closed-back headphones is blocking out unwanted noise. Well, what if you wanted to take that to the next level. Noise-canceling headphones are the obvious answer. If that’s the route you want to go then there is simply no better available on the market this year than Sony’s masterful WH-1000XM4.

It’s far from a one-trick pony however as the much-loved XM4 sounds fantastic with detailed sound and punchy controlled bass. When it comes to tech it’s certainly not lacking and it has some of the most advanced additional software features of any headphone. Inside the Sony app for android and IOS, you can customize a host of functions including ambient sound strength, spatial sound settings, and ANC strength.

Of course, these are wireless headphones and the battery life is excellent and a quick charge is included so you can keep listening. They are comfortable, durable, and very good looking so it was an easy choice for us to include the WH1000-XM4 on this list.


Sennheiser HD820 – Best Closed Back Audiophile Headphone

Sennheiser HD820
Sennheiser HD820 Headphone

Audiophiles love the Sennheiser HD820 and with good reason. It’s a headphone that I have had my own collection (recently replaced with the Z1R below) that sits right alongside the open-back HD800s. This offers something very different in the way it represents the sound. I have never heard a closed-back headphone sound so detailed and spacious. It’s as close to open sounding as you can get in this form factor.

The design is stunning, one of my favorite-looking headphones of all time with its futuristic appearance and stunning build quality. It even has a small viewing window through which you can see the beastly dynamic driver lurking on the inside.

The sound is mightily detailed with clarity and transparency being shown right through the frequencies. Perhaps most impressive is the weighty bass response which is something that the 800 do lack. This headphone can hit hard when called on and it does it with texture and depth along with the all-out slam and rumble

Of course, despite these headphones being near perfect, there is a drawback. It’s phenomenally expensive so you are going to need deep pockets to get on the ride. If you can afford it, it’s very hard to argue against it.


Sony MDR-Z1R

Sony MDR-Z1R

Sony gets their second headphone on the list with the jaw-dropping MDR-1ZR. This one I currently own and I love it. The Z1R is for many an end-game headphone, one that people consider as good as it gets, it’s very hard to disagree.

Sony really set focus on the high-resolution audio market a few years ago after dabbling for some time. The result has been a robust headphone and IEM lineup that has given serious competition to big-name audiophile brands like Audeze and Hifiman.

The build quality is as good as any other high-end headphones. The materials chosen are a blend of carbon fiber, metal, and lush leather. The feel is worth the money, well made, tough, and durable. They look stunning in hand and on the head are ridiculously comfortable.

The sound is what counts though and the first time I heard them I knew they were the headphone for me. Lots of detail, superb tonal balance, deep impactful bass. Mids are smooth and engaging, they manage to provide weight and depth to male vocals yet at the same time showcase the sparkle of female vocals. They have a big soundstage and the imaging is unreal.

So what are the downsides? Well, you might think I would say price but you would be wrong. For the RRP I think they represent good value for money when you account for the endgame sound and top-of-the-line build quality. No the downside here is that they shine best with very good sources. It’s such a ruthless revealing headphone it really deserves to be driven correctly. Be sure to check out our list of the best DAC & Amp units this year and make sure you are getting the most out of them.


Meze Audio 99 Classics

Meze Audio 99 Classic Headphone

This headphone has been around for years and yet despite facing younger competition it’s still immensely popular. It has it all, good sound, beautiful design, and it’s fairly priced to boot.

The Meze 99 Classics are dynamic driver headphones with large circumaural earcups. They have wood earcups to house the large drives and are surprisingly lightweight and comfortable. They also have one of the most beautiful designs on the market and are definitely eye catches on the head or the desk.

They block out a lot of external noise due to their design which seals well. The sound is smooth clear and engaging. It’s fun with a punchy bassline but the thing I like most is the midrange which is so smooth it’s almost lush sounding. It’s a headphone that is very easy to listen to due to its laid-back presentation and slightly rolled-off treble. It works well with any genre and for the price is the most versatile in its class.


Sivga SV021

Sivga SV021 the best budget closed headphone.

The Sivga SV021 is new this year and has become a very popular portable headphone offering alternatives to classics like the Audio Technica M50X. Personally, I like them more than the studio headphones because they are, in my mind, what a good lightweight travel headphones should be. They are lightweight, well made and the closed-back earcups block out a lot of ambient noise.

The Styling is also on point with these. The earcups are wood which is available in light and dark colors. The headband and earpads have some of the softest protein leather I have ever used. They are super comfortable and sit low profile on the head.

The tuning is consumer/audiophile friendly. It does very little to offend and I think it sounds slightly better than other well-regarded portable headphones at its RRP. Bass is hard-hitting, mids are warm and treble is smooth so this would make a perfect companion headphone for fans of pop, rap, and EDM although it does work well with lots of genres.


Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

This is another legendary headphone in the audiophile world. It represents excellent value for money and can be used as a studio or gaming workhorse headphone. Of course, I am talking about the 250-ohm version so you had better have a suitable amp to drive them.

The DT 770 Pro is built to last, with the top build quality and good materials.

As I mentioned these are studio headphones. They were designed with professional musicians and people who work in audio production in mind. With that said it’s why I choose the 250ohm version because it more accurately portrays the music without bias. There is very little coloration here and the sound is neutral and detailed but perhaps not the choice for all-out enjoyment. It’s a headphone to get a task done and it does that very well.


Focal Celestee

Focal Celestee

I think focal are hit and miss with their headphones. Perhaps they have overdone the product line in the past few years. However, when they get one right they really get one right. I have the Focal Utopia down as the best all-around audiophile headphone available right now and the new Celestee makes its case for that rating in the closed headphone space.

As you can agree from the picture above this is a gorgeous-looking headphone. Nothing on the market looks anything like it. The sleek design, beautiful materials, and small nuanced touches all over them certainly catch the eye. If you wear these in public be prepared for questions about them.

Sound-wise they are decent. I won’t lie there are better headphones on here if just sound is the priority but as an overall package, they hold their own. If you want headphones that block out noise, sound good, and have deep bass these are worth checking out.


Audeze LCD-XC

Audeze LCD-XC Close Back Planar Headphones

Oh, look it’s Audeze again.  Don’t be so surprised though these are truly awesome-sounding headphones. Refined over the years and now a truly great headphone at a good price.

LCD-XC takes the brand LCD-X open-back planars and puts them into a non-vented ear-cup (with a little bit of magic sauce) and offers some of the best sound quality you can find in a closed-back headphone. 

Eye-catching polished wood and absolutely dripping with high-quality leather these are headphones to be experienced by true lovers of music.

We found they need a good amp to make them come alive and the price is right up there with the most expensive headphones in the world but if you are looking to drop around 2 grand on a set of closed-back headphones we could think of a lot worse ways to spend that cash.


Dan Clark Audio Stealth

Dan Clark Stealth Headphones

Dan Clark are heavy hitters in the headphone world and offer up headphones to suit most price points but the stealth can be considered one of the brand’s truly great products. 

Designed as a pure audiophile-grade reference headphone it is visceral in the way it dissects audio.  You will need a good source and your files must be on point because it is one of the most ruthlessly revealing headphones I have ever heard.

They bring out every detail, good and bad, in your music and will present your music in a way you have most likely never heard before. 

Listening to the Stealth is an experience not to be missed and it’s one of the headphones here that can actually keep pace with the highest-end open-back headphones. 

Oh, and did I mention it was beautiful to boot? The carbon ear cups are as stunning in the hand as they are in the eye.  A true beast of build, style, and sound.

A stunning design that follows the aesthetic cues of the companies’ highly regarded Aeon. Exceptional sound powered by advanced planar drivers.  The comfort is derived from ultra-luxurious pads and the ability to adjust the fit with the leather headband. 


Monoprice 108324

Monoprice headphones

Don’t think we were going to leave you fans of budget headphones out of this list.  For $25 the Monoprice own branded 108324 headphones (Terrible name aside) are outstanding performers. 

Sure you are going to be sacrificing some sound quality, style, and build from some of the other more outrageous headphones above but at the same time, you are going to be saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars.  

All whilst getting a headphone that can outperform most other headphones in the sub $100 price range.  An outstanding buy and worth picking up just as a backup, beater, or for modding projects.


Audio Technica M50x

Audio Technica ATH-M50x Studio Headphones

Wait…. you didn’t think we were going to go through a list of the best closed-back headphones and not include the ridiculously popular Audio Technica M50x did you.  

The M50x has of course been one of the most highly recommended headphones under $200 in the past few years and for good reason.  

There’s a detailed and balanced sound, stunning build quality that makes the likes of beats headphones seem woefully inadequate, detachable cables, and tremendous isolation.  

Click here to read our full in-depth review of the Audio Technica ATH-MX50


Campfire Audio Cascade

Campfire Audio Cascade

The most recent review on this list and comes in taking the top spot. The Campfire Audio Cascade is an incredible headphone and one of the most polished and well-rounded offerings on the market today. 

The Cascade is Campfire Audio’s first foray into the full-size headphone game but it’s an absolute stunner.  Feel free to check out the full Campfire Audio Cascade review here.


Audiophile Onhttp://www.audiophileon.com
Audiophile On is a website dedicated to high-end audio products. With over 15 years as a reviewer, all articles are hand-written by one person to allow the comparison of products. Headphones, earphones, speakers, amplifiers, or DAC's we cover here.

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